Protecting priority lands to further our conservation mission.
Priority lands are places that:
- Offer people opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation
- Protect scenic beauty and scenic views
- Protect rivers and streams that serve the region’s water needs
- Connect places for wildlife and plants, to ensure resilient landscapes in the mountains
- Preserve working farmland that supply local foods
- Are culturally significant and protecting them can help reverse inequities in Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities
Conservation helps sustain a high quality of life and protects fragile and rare natural resources. As population growth affects the Southern Appalachians, we must balance preservation of undeveloped land with the needs of people who live, work, and visit this incredible region. Otherwise, we risk literally ‘loving these mountains to death.’
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy works to proactively protect tracts identified through strategic conservation planning, mapping and prioritization. We emphasize conservation in the Highlands of Roan, our flagship conservation focus area. SAHC helps agency and community partners acquire their highest priority tracts, to close gaps within national forests and help open new state and local public parks. And we protect tracts that enhance landscape resilience to climate change, as well as prime soils and working farms.
As an accredited land trust, we uphold the highest professional standards when negotiating and completing transactions.
The relatively mild weather and topography of the southern Appalachian region creates a rich diversity of plant and animal life. In addition to the species that make these mountains a permanent home, the region forms part of a migratory highway – for birds, insects, and animals that seasonally migrate AND for projected paths of movement caused by climate change.
Securing connected networks of wildlife habitat and corridors is important for the survival of many species – and for the quality of life of humans who live in and visit these mountains.
Protecting land helps protect our water resources as well, filtering rainwater that replenishes underground drinking water supplies or flows over land into streams, rivers, and lakes.
SAHC assists our partners such as the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, State of NC, State of TN, and local cities in adding places where people enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, and other forms our outdoor recreation. Some of these exciting projects include adding 150 acres to Roan Mountain State Park in TN and helping secure tracts for the future Pisgah View State Park in NC. We also work with agency partners in land stewardship and managing protected places to reduce negative impacts from outdoor recreation.
Efforts to conserve farmland have always been a part of Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s mission. One of our early projects involved the preservation of the 693-acre Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area, in partnership with the State of TN, which included a farmstead. In the early 2000s, SAHC responded to an increasingly rapid pace of farmland loss across the mountains of NC and TN by creating a Farmland Program to boost farmland conservation efforts.
Landowners who are passionate about ensuring that agricultural land remains available for local food production have donated their farms to SAHC, including the SAHC Community Farm in Alexander and Jim Gibson Farm in Sandy Mush. Folks whose families have been farming in the Appalachians for generations contact us because they love their land and want to preserve it. Conservation easements are a way for that to happen. Landowners continue to own, enjoy, and farm on their land, while ensuring that future generations benefit from the security that comes from protecting local farms for local food production.
In addition to protecting land for farming, SAHC partners with other organizations across the region to improve access to land and resources for beginning farmers.
Land Protection: How does SAHC conserve land?
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy uses many techniques to conserve land, depending on the characteristics of the property, goals of landowners, and needs of local communities and partners.
Land protection projects can generally be grouped as fee simple acquisitions (in which SAHC acquires land to own and manage as a nature preserve), conservation easements (in which the landowner continues to own and use the land but certain development rights are permanently restricted in order to protect natural resources), and assists (in which we work with partners like state and federal agencies in order to raise funds or negotiate transactions that add to public parks, forests, and game lands).
In ALL cases, SAHC works with willing landowners. This means that land conservation is voluntary. We often find that people reach out to us to explore conservation options because they have a deep love of the land and want to see it protected for future generations.